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Fieldwork

Photographic Overflight of New England and Mid-Atlantic Coast Provides Baseline for Change Assessments


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Continued demand to maintain permanent infrastructure along the coast is especially prevalent along the New England and mid-Atlantic U.S. coastline. This dynamic interface is the site of dense residential and commercial development in many areas, even though it is frequently subjected to a range of natural hazards that can include storm surge, flooding, coastal erosion, and tsunami inundation. Rising sea levels and an expected increase in storm intensities over the next century and beyond will make coastal regions increasingly vulnerable to shoreline erosion and coastal flooding.

Personnel from the USGS and Penobscot Island Air loading gear and setting up equipment on the tarmac of Knox County Regional Airport
Above: Personnel from the USGS and Penobscot Island Air loading gear and setting up equipment on the tarmac of Knox County Regional Airport in Owls Head, Maine. [larger version]

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Assessment of Coastal Change Hazards project includes ongoing efforts to better understand historical patterns of coastal change and to assess impacts from severe storms. The current focus of the historical-shoreline-change analysis is on New England and the mid-Atlantic States (Maine through Virginia). Previous historical assessments have been completed for the Gulf of Mexico, the U.S. Southeast Atlantic coast, and California. In order to interpret and analyze regional-scale shoreline-change data associated with these assessments, a detailed perspective on the varied coastal geomorphology and the location of coastal-protection structures is essential.

Striking changes occurred in the 9-yr period between coastal overflights on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
Above: Striking changes occurred in the 9-yr period between coastal overflights on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. This location, at Nauset Beach near Chatham, is the site of a breach in the barrier island that formed during the April 15-17, 2007, "Patriots' Day" nor'easter. Several houses were destroyed (left of red arrow), and the beach was significantly eroded. [larger version]

During the week of May 18-22, 2009, USGS personnel Cheryl Hapke, Emily Himmelstoss, and Karen Morgan conducted an aerial photographic mission along the New England and mid-Atlantic coast, from Cape Elizabeth, Maine, to the border between Virginia and North Carolina. The overflight was conducted with a Cessna 207 single-engine plane piloted by Brud Folger of Penobscot Island Air. Geolocated digital photographs were taken out of an open window of the plane, which flew 500 ft above the water and approximately 1,000 ft offshore. The camera system included a high-resolution digital still camera and a laptop computer with real-time position-tracking software. Wired to the camera was a dedicated Global Positioning System (GPS) unit that added geographic coordinates to the header of each photograph as it was taken. Nearly 10,000 oblique images were collected.

Approximate stretch of New England and mid-Atlantic coast that was photographed during the 2009 overflight humpback whale and her calf
Above left: Approximate stretch of New England and mid-Atlantic coast that was photographed during the 2009 overflight and will be covered by the National Assessment of Shoreline Change Hazards analysis. [larger version]

Above right: A humpback whale and her calf, spotted off the northeast tip of Cape Cod during the overflight, provided a momentary distraction from taking coastal photographs. [larger version]

These new images will be used to interpret trends and along-coast variations in shoreline change in the assessment report for the New England and mid-Atlantic States. In addition, they can be qualitatively compared to a similar dataset that was collected in 2000 to look at short-term changes to the coast. Finally, they will provide a modern baseline for assessing the impacts of extreme storms, such as hurricanes and nor'easters, should this region be affected in the near future.


Related Sound Waves Stories
Gulf Coast Impacts of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike Documented by USGS Extreme-Storms Group
October 2008
USGS Analyzes 70 Years of Coastal Cliff Retreat in California
July 2007
North to Alaska—an Aerial Shoreline Reconnaissance
October 2006

Related Web Sites
National Assessment of Coastal Change Hazards
USGS
National Assessment of Shoreline Change Project
USGS
Coastal Change Hazards: Hurricanes and Extreme Storms
USGS
National Assessment of Shoreline Change: Part 1, Historical Shoreline Changes and Associated Coastal Land Loss Along the U.S. Gulf of Mexico - USGS Open File Report 2004-1043
USGS
National Assessment Of Shoreline Change: Part 2, Historical Shoreline Changes And Associated Coastal Land Loss Along The U.S. Southeast Atlantic Coast USGS Open File Report 2005-1401
USGS
National Assessment of Shoreline Change Part 3: Historical Shoreline Change and Associated Coastal Land Loss Along Sandy Shorelines of the California Coast - U.S. Geological Survey Open File Report 2006-1219
USGS

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Research
cover story:
Study Demonstrates How Methylmercury Forms in the Ocean

Nutrient Delivery to Gulf of Mexico Above 30-Year Average

Fieldwork Submarine Landslides as Potential Triggers of Tsunamis

Photographic Overflight Provides Baseline for Coastal Change Assessments

Climate Past, Climate Future: A Story of Aquatic Plants

Outreach SCUBAnauts Visit Capitol Hill During Ocean Week

USGS Scientist Participates in Panel About Ocean Acidification

Meetings New England Lidar Workshop

Awards Jeff Williams Receives 2009 Coastal Zone Foundation Career Award

USGS Scientist Receives Best Student Poster Award

DOI Award Recognizes Coast Salish Tribal Journey Partnership

Staff and Center News New USGS Mendenhall Postdoctoral Research Fellows

Publications August 2009 Publications List


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